Editors note: The following is from the speech Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Laurette Leagon presented at the chambers Newly-Elected Officials Reception held Thursday. It has been edited for relevancy and to fit the space within.
As one of the areas leading business association, our (the Yadkin Valley) Chamber(of Commerce) recognizes its role to serve as the voice of the business community in matters of public policy, and providing a forum for dialogue on current issues affecting local businesses.
We believe it is our responsibility to work as a catalyst to bring about cooperation between the public sector and the private sector, to seek consensus, to ensure economic prosperity and to strive to always improve the quality of life for all citizens.
We are keenly aware that the Yadkin Valley is growing in popularity as a tourism destination . As traditional industry and agri-business declines, tourism is becoming a growing contributor to our local economy. The Chamber staff, volunteers and its Board of Directors have spent and will continue to spend countless hours working with various agencies and organizations in this endeavor. We are working in Conjunction with VISIT the Yadkin Valley to promote Elkin, Jonesville and the surrounding 15-mile radius of the towns. We are part of the Cascade Highlands, which is a geographic region initiative comprised of nine neighboring counties in North Carolina and Virginia that are working cooperatively to promote regional tourism as a mean of economic and community development.
The Chamber is honored to partner with the Jonesville Tourism Authority in the operation and management of the Jonesville Welcome Center, just off I-77 at exit 82. The Welcome Center is open daily until 8 p.m. and has the potential to have a significant impact on the amount of tourism we can direct to local areas of interest, The Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce is also assisting the Jonesville Town Council and tourism Authority on the beautification projects and lighting at exit 82, the corridor plan for N.C. 67, and the Greenway plan, which has already received funding from Clean Water Management.
The Chamber is participating in the new Tourism Partnership of Surry County. The purpose of the tourism partnership is to create a joint tourism and marketing campaign in order to promote travel, expand tourism and provide tourism-related expenditures to benefit Surry County. The only component missing is an occupancy tax in the unincorporated area of Surry County. The Chamber and Visit the Yadkin Valley both endorse proposing legislation to authorize Surry County to levy an occupancy tax in the area outside our local municipalities. This will not only help further the marketing efforts of the Partnership, it will level the playing field among our lodging establishments.
The Chamber membership is also a strong advocate of job retraining for our citizens. So many have lost and continue to lose their jobs in our county. We encourage our elected officials to make sure that Surry Community College and the Employment Security Commission receive funding at a level that can provide the tools and training that is vital to the future our workforce.
I know there have been several studies conducted regarding changes to annexation laws. I want to encourage our state legislators to review these studies very carefully and weigh all the options before making their decisions.
In closing, I wish to assure each of you that the Chamber stands poised and ready to assist you in whatever way we can, by activating our board and membership to do what is right for the towns and counties we represent and in the best interest of the citizens. Thank you.